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Nordic Bath
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Winter impacts our bodies in many negative ways: dry skin, chilblains and respiratory difficulties, not to mention the stress, chronic fatigue and mood-related problems that can plague some people due to lack of exposure to the sun. Scandinavian baths are among the most effective relaxation and well-being options for regaining physical and mental vitality, especially in the depths of winter. A three-part treatment Scandinavian or Nordic baths work on the principle of hydrotherapy, a type of treatment involving stimulating the body with alternating hot and cold temperatures. The contrast between the hot and cold seems to be therapeutically beneficial. This method involves three phases, as Émilie Mazet of Scandinave Les Bains in Old Montréal explains: “First, the body needs to be warmed up for 10 to 15 minutes, in a sauna or steam bath, for example. Under the effect of heat, blood vessels dilate, body temperature rises, perspiration occurs, and the heart beats faster. To stop this process, the next step involves a few seconds in contact with a source of cold, which can take the form of a cold plunge or a very cold shower. This completes the hot-cold contrast. Finally, the last phase is devoted to relaxation. Too(…)

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breath better
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Many years ago, while studying to be a yoga teacher, I spent several hours in a course called “How to Breathe” in hopes of bringing some additional insight into how to get the most from my breathing practice. At first, I thought the course would be redundant and cover things I learned in previous yoga courses, but this course, as it turned out, was different. It not only introduced me to new breathing techniques and methods, it introduced me to effective ways to breathe, including how to bring more consciousness to my breathing in order to better use it as a tool for healthier overall living. From that course, here are three techniques I learned to help find one’s centre in any given situation: 1. Diaphragm breathing: This is the basis for all breathing techniques since it is intended to help you use your diaphragm correctly. Known as “belly breathing” in the yoga world, using the diaphragm gives us an effective breath, since it helps us to use more of the lung’s capacity and get a fuller, deeper breath. Shallow breathing – or breathing solely with the chest, instead of deeply, using the diaphragm – takes less oxygen into the(…)

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Man holding dumbbell
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It’s amazing the way I’ve come to worry about my parents. I find myself having conversations with them like, “Dad, are you taking any vitamins?” or “Mom, have you thought about trying yoga?”. My dad turned 60 this year and I just can’t help but think about him aging—since that’s inevitable, I guess the thing is to help him age healthfully. And since a healthy heart is the foundation of the good overall health, I decided to put together a checklist of six healthy habits that can be used at any age. I hope it helps ease those “are you taking your vitamins” conversations you have with your own parents this year: Exercise: This is probably the toughest for my dad. His schedule really limits him from joining a gym or sports team. But recently he’s started to take walks after dinner; he walks at a moderate pace, but still gets his heart rate up enough to feel a difference in his body temperature. He says the walks have helped him sleep better at night, exhausting him a bit before bed. Which brings me to the next heart habit… Relaxation and reducing stress: It’s more about quality here than quantity, since everyone’s(…)

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Piling Stress
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We often think about what we can add to our lives to be healthier—fruits, vegetables, dairy, vitamins, water and even exercise. But improving health doesn’t just have to come from consuming—sometimes it’s the things we eliminate (like stress) that can have the biggest impact on our health. In an office or in your track pants at home, here are five ways to reduce stress while at work: Relaxation Response Technique : If you can spare just 10 minutes of silence and sitting still during your lunch break, this is the technique for you. Select a word or a phrase you like. It could even be the word “peace” or “calm” or the sound “om” often used in yoga. Repeat it slowly and quietly, focusing on the word and trying to ignore any intruding thoughts or worries. If done properly, this method helps bring you into a meditative and relaxation state. Reduce your email use: Sound crazy? It can be both distracting and backlogging to constantly check and respond to email. Try and limit email checks to about three times per day for 10 minutes each time, for example. This will help free up your time and reduce the stressful feeling(…)

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Put Some Heart Into Your Gift Giving
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Gift giving means indulging and pampering those we love. But why not give a gift that encourages a heart healthy lifestyle? Don’t press the snooze button yet! Here are five great ideas that are fun and thoughtful. Cooking Lessons: Start with a basic class for the kitchen-shy. Encourage your giftee to start making their own food—or even just packing their own lunch. Every small step will help put cholesterol control into their hands. Or think of a class focused on cooking fish—it’s heart healthy but sometimes intimidating so a few solid tips about grilling and poaching will inspire. Dance Classes If you know someone who needs to find time to exercise and relax, think about a set of dancing lessons. Choose from easy-going waltzes to heart-pumping foxtrots. And for the young at heart try some hip-hop or modern dance. Yoga classes Stress management seems to be important for heart health. By gifting a few yoga sessions you might just spark a passion (and relaxation) that your friends or family will benefit from long term. You can also opt for a yoga mat and a good video. There are many great choices for home-use and for all levels. Life Skills Session:(…)

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